We are just a few days away from 2013. The internet is filled with humorous resolutions for the New Year. And we all know about the big joke of the number of people that don’t follow through with their New Year’s resolutions. All joking aside if there is one resolution you stick to this year for your West Michigan startup or small business, make it be that you resolve to be a better planner. One of the biggest mistakes made by small business owners and startups is a lack of planning.
Nina Kaufman states in the video above that partners lack of having an end game is the biggest mistake she sees but this is just a lack of planning. If partners (or members of an limited liability company or shareholders of a corporation) come together and just start working on a project they end up wondering down an aimless path and in the end that path is not likely to lead to what either of those partners wanted when they started out. This is a mistake that can easily be avoided.
Trust in business can make or break any business regardless of how big or how small that business is. We have all heard the various business deals that have taken place on the golf course or over drinks at a bar. Generally the people who participate in those types of activities with one another are people who trust each other. Despite this bond, there still needs to be well drafted business contracts and steps taken to protect your business.
Bob Wheeler, Sr. owns a Kalamazoo small business known as Crosstown Auto & Truck Parts. Wheeler has developed a business model that has been built on trusting customers. He often times extends credit to his customers that cannot make their payments on time so he often times receives payments 60 to 90 days late or cannot receive any lines of credit from traditional lending institutions. He has followed this model since he formed his small business which made for some lean times early on.
It’s the time of year for gift giving. Everyone is racing around trying to find the perfect gift that will make someone else’s face light up. Here at The Business Law Group we are giving out one mass gift: the gift of knowledge. It seems like a common theme that comes up in conversations with us is the question what are the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make. New entrepreneurs want to avoid them and current entrepreneurs want to know that they are not alone or if there is something they should be looking out for.
To begin with, it should be obvious that each Grand Rapids startup and each West Michigan small business is unique and face unique challenges so these common mistakes do not apply to all and if you avoid just these mistakes does not mean you are in the clear. So without further ado, here is our gift to you:
As much as some would like to hide in their heads in the sand, the world of online retailers is growing. Forrester Research Inc. released numbers earlier this year that online shoppers in the United States will spend $327 billion in 2016, up 45% from $226 billion predicted for 2012 and 62% from $202 billion reported in 2011. So you are Grand Rapids startup and you want to push for your piece of that $327 billion pie. That’s great but while you are selling millions of dollars of products through your website, you still have to protect your business.
Harvey Firestone, the founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, stated, "Capital isn't so important in business. Experience isn't so important. You can get both these things. What is important is ideas. If you have ideas, you have the main asset you need, and there isn't any limit to what you can do with your business and your life." Firestone knew that innovation was vital to business. Without innovation you have a limited ceiling to your success.
Since 2007, iLabs, a branch of the University of Michigan-Dearborn College of Business, has been publishing the iLabs Innovation Index. This Index Report is prepared on a quarterly basis and is comprised of six indicators that measure the innovation activity in Michigan: Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, gross job creation, trademark applications, incorporations and LLC filings, venture capital (VC) funding and the percentage of innovation workers in the workforce as measured by those employed in science and engineering. The 2007 Report set the benchmark at 100 and the current index report stands at 92.8.
It seems nearly impossible for your West Michigan small business to compete with big business. How can you overcome hundreds of workers with million dollar budgets and investors clamoring to buy shares of their business when you might only have a handful of employees with a much, much smaller budget and you cannot give away shares of your business? There are many ways that your small business has advantages over big business despite this.
A few office furniture leaders from Haworth, Herman Miller and Trendway talked about the changing furniture industry earlier this week. These furniture manufacturers are some of the biggest businesses in West Michigan and the Grand Rapids area. Their representatives spoke about the changing work environment and the increase in the number of workers that are setting up mobile offices, working out of homes and coffee shops and those workers that travel and are working out of hotels. They also spoke about the need to adapt to industry specific markets such as healthcare and education while not losing their traditional markets.
West Michigan, like so many other areas, is still working on climbing out of what is conservatively described as a down economy. As part of the fallout of the economy’s struggles, many West Michigan workers became resilient and struck out on their own. Instead of toiling in the process of finding some kind of an opening with another business, these workers became freelancers.
Freelance work is pretty simple. Instead of being an employee of a larger business, you hang out your own shingle and do what you do best. Freelance workers, or self-employed workers, are their own bosses and with a shift in the economy are becoming more and more prevalent. Some freelance workers have seen some real success while on their own.
Every business, big or small, is looking for an edge to grow. Startups are looking to blow up as fast as possible and entrepreneurs are always looking to expand their market. Seeing a company grow 2,662% over three years should be something we all take note of.
Chobani is a company that produces Greek yogurt. This superfast growing company is expanding almost daily. Building more production facilities here in the United States and creating new jobs all the time. Chobani is also gaining a reputation for its charitable work. So how did Chobani grow so much so fast?
West Michigan is full of some of the world’s best talent. Not only do our high schools produce some of the futures great minds, but there are so many higher education institutions that are molding even more great minds. On top of that, the Medical Mile, research institutes, incubators, and more attract even more talent here to be refined and trained. In order to compete with business meccas like New York and Silicon Valley, it has to be a priority for our community to retain this talent and help it to blossom.
Grand Valley State University’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center has a new tenant. This business incubator has signed a 2-year lease with Corlnet LLC. While this would seem rather benign information, a closer look shows that MAREC’s new tenant should be the model for the future.
West Michigan is a wonderful place to do business. Most businesses have high moral ethics and are extremely trustworthy. There really are not a lot of cut-throat entrepreneurs that are looking to screw over others so they can advance their small businesses. At the same time, you should never conduct business with anyone on a handshake.
I know we like to think of the world as a great utopian society where a man is as good as his word and thus will always follow through on his duties. In fact I am sure there are people you do business with that you would “trust your life with.” In reality though, this is the real world and people out there with less than stellar business practices and misunderstandings and disagreements arise between even the closest of friends. What happens when you need a shipment to arrive on Monday to fill an order by Wednesday and it does not arrive until Friday? Without a document to prove the date of arrival, all you have is “words”.